Posted On February 3, 2017 By In Non classifié(e), None With 61 Views

Rights groups say child migrants will suffer from EU’s Libya plan

Valletta, Feb 3, 2017 (AFP)

Rights groups Friday attacked EU plans to help Libya stem migrant departures as a recipe for children being sent back to squalid detention centres in the north African country.
At a summit in Malta, leaders of the bloc were expected to approve a new strategy to “break the business model” of traffickers who have helped more than half a million mainly African migrants enter the European Union via Libya and Italy in the last three years.
NGOs said it would mean women and children being returned to inhumane conditions in detention centres where they would be vulnerable to rape, beatings, forced labour and forcible repatriation to uncertain fates in their home countries.
“Sending children back to a country many have described as a living hell is not a solution,” said Ester Asin of British charity Save the Children.
The cornerstone of the plan is funding and training the Libyan coastguard to make it better able to intercept migrant boats before they reach international waters, according to a draft statement seen by AFP.
With Libya in a chaotic, conflict-scarred state and a fledgling UN-backed national unity government only in control of sections of the country’s vast coastline, the prospect of turning boats around is causing concern.
Human Rights Watch said the EU would be flouting its international obligations by “outsourcing responsibility” for the migrants to one party to a conflict in a fundamentally unstable state.
“What the EU wants to call a ‘line of protection’ could in reality be an ever-deeper line of cruelty in the sand and at sea,” said the rights monitor’s Judith Sunderland.
– ‘Shot like dogs’ –
The EU’s attempts to get Libya to effectively blockade its own coastline follows a record year for arrivals in Italy (181,000 in 2016) and the deadliest winter yet in the Mediterranean, with migrants perishing at sea at a rate of 15 per day over the last three months, according to UN refugee agency (UNHCR) figures.
Rescuers say the death toll has risen because traffickers are sending more and more overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels to sea in tough winter conditions in order to maximise profits while they can.
Critics of EU efforts to resolve the crisis say the Italian-led search-and-rescue operation in the international waters off Libya encourage traffickers because they know they only have to get their human cargo a few miles offshore and they will be picked up and taken to Italy.
More than 1,750 migrants were rescued in such circumstances on the eve of the summit, when Italy announced its own deal to provide more money, coastguard training and equipment to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord.
The EU’s new plans have drawn comparisons with Australia’s controversial hardline approach of turning migrant boats away.
Migrants on board the Aquarius, a rescue boat chartered by France’s SOS Mediterranee, described the prospect of being returned to Libya as horrifying.
“The Libyans shoot us like dogs,” Boubacar, a 17-year-old Guinean was quoted as saying by a spokesman for the charity.
The UN’s children agency UNICEF said an unprecedented 1,354 migrants, including 190 children, had died in the Mediterranean in the past three months.
The vast majority of them perished on the Libya-Italy route and the death toll was 13 times higher than in the same period in 2015-2016, the body said.
“The decisions taken at Friday’s summit could literally mean the difference between life and death for thousands of children transiting or stranded in Libya,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.

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